Shaking up the top lineMay 23, 2012, by
During the game on Monday, I got into a discussion with Kevin Baumer (formerly of Blueshirt Bulletin) about the play of Carl Hagelin. The question came up about possibly benching Carl Hagelin when Brandon Dubinsky is ready to return. Kevin was vehemently against it. I on the other hand, was not so against it.
Bear in mind, if this were the regular season, I would have called for a benching a while ago. But it’s not, so things are a bit different.
Hagelin is currently playing top line minutes with the Rangers two most skilled forwards, and ha exactly zero goals to show for it. That’s no goals and just three assists in 15 games so far this postseason. No matter which way you look at this, it’s unacceptable to have a top line player with zero goals in 15 games. At some point, changes need to be made.
What Hagelin does so well for the Rangers is that he forechecks relentlessly, and has done a great job of maintaining puck possession…at least during the regular season. That is not the case so far this postseason.
On Saturday, I listed out the Rangers skaters in regards to QoC, RCorsi, and OZone start %, and while I did not specifically mention Hagelin in the post, his numbers came in on the disappointing end of things. (Please refer to this article and this article for details about advanced metrics.)
Those numbers, when analyzed alone, mean little. When you combine them, you are able to really see how these players do, because you are looking at puck possession metrics (RCorsi) in relation to the quality of competition faced and the time spent in the offensive zone. All three together make an accurate reading of how a player is doing, and that’s why Hagelin’s numbers are so startling.
Hagelin, who has a great RCorsi in the regular season (10.3), is severely struggling in that regard. In fact, it’s one of the worst on the team at -5.3, exactly 15 off from his regular season pace. Couple that with his bottom-three QoC (.012) and over 60% offensive zone starts, and you have a player that is struggling.
For those new to advanced metrics, what Hagelin is in this postseason is a player getting ample offensive chances (offensive zone starts), against competition that is not of elite stature (QoC), and he still can’t seem to maintain possession of the puck (RCorsi). Bring that together with his zero goals and three assists in 15 games, and you have a player that is clearly struggling.
The decision to remove Hagelin from the line is going to be a controversial one. After all, he has had a lot of chemistry with Richards and Gaborik because he does the dirty work in the corners and allows Richards and Gaborik to do their thing. But the results just aren’t there. When the results aren’t there, sometimes change is needed. Perhaps that change is simply swapping Hagelin with Chris Kreider, who is the only Rangers forward to have more than one goal this series.